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What Is a Sourcing Agent?

Before we jump to the question how to find a sourcing agent from China, let’s understand what a sourcing agent is.

A sourcing agent is a regional representative that helps companies source products from low cost countries, such as China, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. Sourcing agents can be both individuals and companies. Sourcing agents can also be known as buying agents,  procurement agents, purchasing agents, purchasing managers, purchasing buyers, etc.

The sourcing agent’s job is to assess the needs of the company, then locate suppliers, and find out if they will be able to take on the orders. An agent could also inspect factories to confirm that they will be able to meet standards. 

If you are sourcing from a foreign country, you might not be familiar with the local norms. This is where hiring a sourcing agent would be a smart decision.

What Is the difference between a sourcing agent and a sourcing company?

When companies decide to find a repre to perform outsourcing activities on behalf of them, they should understand the difference between sourcing agents and sourcing companies.

Sourcing agents are individuals who can be hired full time on a per hour basis. They will assist you with product sourcing and other related processes. On the other hand, sourcing agencies are a team of individual agents who join to represent a company while each specialises in one are (electronics, clothing, etc). 

They can be found on freelancing websites, such as Upwork, FIverr,etc.

Sourcing companies are registered organization that  have a team of experts and provide full range services, including quality inspection, shipping, payment arrangements and warehousing.

Sourcing Agent vs Sourcing Company

Sourcing AgentSourcing Company
Service PriceLowHigh
Service rangeLimitedFull scale

What services do sourcing agents/companies provide?

1. Finding and evaluating suppliers

After making your request, sourcing agents will contact sellers and negotiate for the best quality at the lowest possible price. Upon request, they will meet vendors, negotiate contracts and keep record.

2. Production management and quality control

Sourcing agents/companies will monitor the production & provide regular live updates to you. 

3. Additional Services

Other services, that are usually provided by sourcing companies, may include:

  • Providing a warehouse
  • Arranging the shipping and receiving
  • Label & packaging customization
  • Photography 

How much does a sourcing agent cost?

This is is one of the most important question: how much will you have to pay for product sourcing service? There are a few models available:

1. Commission based

Sourcing agents often charge on a commission basis for their services. Usually the commission percentage is between 2 and 10 percent, one average 6%. 

The percentage depends on the order quantity, order frequency and order value.  The larger your order, the lower will be the commission fee. 

2. Hourly Rate

This model is for individual agents who will be  paid according to hours worked.

3. Flat fee

Some sourcing agents will charge a single fixed fee for their service, regardless of the amount done.

4. Gain from the price difference

The most common method among sourcing agents or companies is charging for a certain percentage of the order value. Sourcing agent from China usually charge from 3% to 10% depending on the quantity and quality of the services provided and the complexity of the product being sourced.

How to choose the best sourcing agent?

If you decide to hire a sourcing agent/company, you will wonder how to choose one that will best meet your needs. We recommend to go through this questionnaire before hiring.

  1. How long have they been operating?

The longer, the more experienced are they at their job.

  1. How large is their supplier network?

The main reason of hiring is the absence of supplier network for company, so it is very important for an agent or company to have a vast network of suppliers.

  1. Where are they located?

If a company is sourcing from China, it is important for them to be located in China so that they can pay visits, negotiate and arrange instead of the company.

  1. Do they have expertise in sourcing your or similar product?

It doesn’t have to be exactly the same product, but it’d be preferred for an agent/company to have experience in the field. If you want to import electronics, hiring an agent with experience in clothing sourcing would be ineffective.

  1. How large is their team? Do you have experts in specific fields?

We do not say that the higher is the number, the better. We just want a company to consider the team who will be providing the service. Are they experts? Do they have experience?

  1. How responsive they are? 

Every hour is important for the business. So it is important for the agent/company to be quick and approach with a sense of responsibility.

  1. Do they speak your language?

They say that the good communication is half of the work, so language should not be barrier.

  1. What additional services they offer?

If a company doesn’t have time to hire different agencies for different services (Quality control, shipment) the best option is to hire a full scale service provider.

Where to find sourcing agents?

Look on freelancing platforms

If you are looking for individual agents, platforms like Upwork and Fiverr are the best. Good agents have their services clearly stated and they hourly rates given. Depending on your needs and budget, you can choose your agent for a wide range of options.

Use search engines

You can search for agents or companies just by making queries on Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines. The ranking of a company does not yet mean a higher quality. When you find a few options, we do recommend to go over the list of How to choose the best sourcing agent.

Search on Linkedin

Linkedin is a trustworthy social media for professional use. You will be able to see the background of agents and their expertise. 

Looking for a sourcing agent from China? Altro Source is a trusted sourcing company, a team of experienced professionals in product sourcing and logistics from East to Everywhere. We make it easy for companies and entrepreneurs to source products from China & Southeast Asia.